Why a ‘Green Flying Duty’ is vital to combat climate change

(The Independent, 16 Aug 2019) ‘All of us need to fly less, stay longer, and be encouraged towards greener, more sustainable transport’.

In one of her final acts as prime minister, and likely with an eye on her legacy, Theresa May committed the UK to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It’s proof that politicians are finally starting to engage with the realities around climate change, and is to be welcomed. But this commitment doesn’t go far enough. 

For any carbon reduction plan to be successful, it needs to include the global aviation industry, which if it were a country would be the seventh largest CO2 emitter in the world.

Aviation was able to avoid inclusion in individual states’ action plans under the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Climate Agreement, but with air travel now one of the fastest-growing contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Health Organisation, the industry cannot escape the spotlight any longer.

Cheap flights and hidden costs

Over the last few decades, we’ve become used to being able to jet off around the world at short notice, in some cases at ludicrously little cost: Rome, for the price of a couple of pizzas and a bottle of average wine? The cheap flights that drive demand for air travel are no miracle though. They exist as a direct result of the huge tax breaks on international aviation fuel enjoyed by airlines. Not all of us fly, but we all pay.

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The Independent, 16 Aug 2019: Why a ‘Green Flying Duty’ is vital to combat climate change